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Vicar's Musings for Pentecost

8 June, 2014

Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit) also known as the "Golden Sequence" is a sequentia (chant or hymn) traditionally sung at Pentecost during the Mass, prior to the proclamation of the Gospel. Its provenance is uncertain, but one of those attributed with its composition is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton (c. 1150-1228) and it is one of just four medieval sequences preserved in the Missale Romanum (1570). It is our prayer, our faith-cry, as we long for that same Spirit of God to inspire and transform our lives and our communities.

Abbé Henri de Tourville (1842-1903), a French priest and spiritual director, writes of the immediacy and mysterious physicality of this Spirit we invoke (cited in Evelyn Underhill, Fruits of the Spirit [1942], p. 3):

Remember that God loves your soul, not in some aloof, impersonal way, but passionately, with the adoring, cherishing love of a parent for a child. The outpouring of His Holy Spirit is really the outpouring of His Love, surrounding and penetrating your little soul with a peaceful, joyful delight in His creature: tolerant, peaceful, a love full of long-suffering and gentleness, working quietly, able to wait for results, faithful, devoted, without variableness or shadow of turning. Such is the charity of God.

This promised Holy Spirit — Paraclete, Advocate, Helper — may first come to us in a prayer room, behind a shut door, in a private moment at Mass; but as with the first disciples, we are usually then driven out of our comfort zones and into the market place, into the streets and lanes; encouraged to take up the challenge of Christian ministry. The Holy Spirit is not about "me, me, me" but rather "you, you, you" and "we, we, we." Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once interviewed by a journalist who joined her in chapel for prayer. The hustle and bustle of the street outside was a terrible distraction for the interviewer. "How can you pray with all that noise?" he asked. "That noise is my prayer," was her reply.

St Paul writes: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23). The individual or church that is truly praying the Veni Sancte Spiritus, with hearts open to God and neighbour, cannot help but manifest these same fruits of the Spirit. So, may we pray from the depths of our hearts this day with St John Chrysostom (c. 347-407):

Heavenly King, Paraclete,
Spirit of truth present in all places and filling all things,
Treasury of good and Choir-master of life:
Come and dwell within us,
Cleanse us from all stain and save our soul. Amen.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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